Saturday, July 30, 2011

Washington Gardener Magazine's Tomato Taste at Market is Back!

Washington Gardener Magazine's
4th Annual
Tomato Tasting
at the Silver Spring FreshFarm Market

It’s ‘Big Boy’ vs. ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ hybrid vs. heirloom, the tomato wars have just begun. Everyone is sure that their tomato pick is the tastiest. Join Washington Gardener Magazine at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD, on Saturday, August 20 from 10am-12noon for a Tomato Tasting. Best of all, this event is FREE!

Farmers at the market will contribute their locally grown selections — from super-sweet ‘Sungold’ to not-so-pretty ‘Cherokee Purple’ — and we’ll explore which tomatoes make the short list of favorites. We’ll have tomato gardening tips, tomato recipes, tomato activities for kids, and much more. The fabulous Montgomery County Master Gardeners will also be on hand to answer your questions about tomato growing challenges. All to celebrate one of summer’s greatest indulgences — the juicy fresh tomato.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fenton Friday: Baby Melons!

'Snow Leopard' honeydew melons

'Sugar Baby' watermelon
 I'm sooooooooooo excited about my teeny 'Sugar Baby' watermelon and my growing 'Snow Leopard' honeydew melons. I want to put bows on them and push them around in a little pram all about town. I expect everyone to coo over them and ask me their names. (If you must know -- Tyka, Lena, and Tigra.)

tiny cucumber just starting out
I also finally have baby cucumbers showing up, but they are not as coo-worthy due to their current prickliness. 

My tomatoes are in a bit of a green holding pattern. I attribute that to the oppressive 100+ degree days last week and this week.  

I would have dug up some of my potatoes this week, but no way was I going to risk passing out with over-exertion in this heat wave. (I have been known to do that once or twice.) Maybe next week and I can get over on a cooler morning.

Blossom-end Rot

In other exciting Fenton Community Garden news this week, we had a few Montgomery County Master Gardeners over for a Plant Diagnostic walk at our weekly "Happy Hour" gathering. They mostly answered questions about diseases and pest problems. We got to see a Cucumber beetle close up, the difference in male and female squash blossoms, flea beetle damage, and what blossom-end rot on a tomato looks like. I'll put up a full photo album from the walk this weekend at our Facebook page (

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NEW Summer 2011 Issue of Washington Gardener Magazine OUT

Our Summer 2011 Washington Gardener magazine issue is now out. The cover story is on Ornamental Edibles. From swiss chard to artichokes, how to mix attractive edible plants into your ornamental garden landscape.

You’ll also find in this issue:

• A DayTrip to Nemours Estate and Gardens in Delaware. (See an excerpt from that story on page 9 of this enewsletter.)

• Amsonia aka Arkansas Bluestar — Three Seasons of Color

• Growing A-Maize-ing Corn — the best techniques and varieties for success in our region

• East Native Summer Bluet

• Fertilization Facts

• Urban Foraging: the Ultimate Revenge Against Weeds!

• Cucumber Beetles

• Summer Love for Your Garden

• A “Magical” Garden Before and After Transformation

• Casey Tree’s Summer Almanac

• Famed Landscape Architect Florence Everts of Washington, DC tells her personal garden story

• An Interview with Linna the Locavore and much, much more...

To subscribe, online go to and use our PayPal (credit card) link OR send a check for $20.00 payable to “Washington Gardener” magazine to: Washington Gardener, 826 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Video Wednesday: Four Seasons Garden Path at Frelinghusen

A short video of the Four Seasons garden path at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township, NJ, in summer. I took this video while up there last week for a Garden Writers Association regional meeting. It was hot as hades, but worth it to discover this wonderful arboretum. I'll definitely back for more visits in other seasons.

We Love Local, Independent Retailers!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
Just a quick reminder: Any local retailers wanting to carry Washington Gardener Magazine, should contact me directly at Wgardenermag (at) to discuss details. I have been dealing one-on-one with independent local retailers like this one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Essential Crape Myrtles ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ July 2011

- - Local Gardening - - -

Washington Gardener Enews ~ July 2011


~ The Essential Crape Myrtles
~ Magazine Excerpt: Nemours Estate and Gardens
~ Washington Gardener Magazine 2011 Day Trip Details
~ Reader Contest: Tell Us Your Favorite Deer-Resistant Plants and Win a Bottle of Messina Wildlife's Deer Stopper spray
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ Spotlights Special: Crocosmia Twilight Fairy™
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for July-August
~ Upcoming Local Garden Events
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Back Issue Sale!
and much more...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fenton Friday: Gathering Around the Watering Hole

Touring one of the more successful plots

Enjoying Iced Tea NOT Compost Tea!

a good turn-out

This week we all took a break from the DC heat at the Fenton Street Community Garden and met up for an alcohol-free Happy Hour on Monday early evening. About 25 of the 44 plot owners came to meet up, share concerns, and ask questions -- lots and lots of questions. So for our next Happy Hour, we are inviting some local Master Gardeners to take us on a Plant Diagnostic walk-about through the garden plots. I plan to take copious notes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Parade of Ponds this Weekend!

It is that time of year! It is hot and humid and  that means we are ready to see some great water gardens on the Parade of Ponds weekend. Of course, it is not all water features! You'll also see on the tour some gorgeous private gardens surrounding those fabulous water features. It is totally self-guided. See one garden or many. Go just one morning or fill up both days touring to your heart's content. The gardens are located in Washington, DC, Montgomery County, MD, and Howard County, MD. Bring your camera, a hat, and sunscreen!

This year the tour is FREE, but the organizers are asking you to donate to Shepherd's Table and will have collection points at various points along the tour. You can also donate online at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Video Wednesday: Sunflowers!

Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area located in Western Montgomery County. Each summer, the state of Maryland plants fields of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers for feeding and attracting migratory game birds. (This is a hunting preserve.) Photography and art clubs love it, but it is so big and never so crowded that it is a problem.

McKee-Beshers WMA is a 2,000-acre area located on River Road just outside of Seneca, Maryland  (between Potomac and Poolesville in Montgomery County). It is not far from the intersection of River Rd and Rt 112. McKee-Beshers is on the left hand side of the road. Just pull in, walk around the gate, go 20 yards around a clump of brush, and BAM! Sunflowers as far as the eye I can see. Totally hidden from the road.

A few photos I took are posted here at the page. BTW, no need for a step ladder (as one friend had recommended I bring), the flowers are all between waist and chest high. If you like birding, go early in the day. I went in late afternoon and saw lots of butterflies and bees. The blooms should last a few more weeks and you can go anytime during daylight hours. Best of all, it is free!

UPDATE: This year (2015), the sunflowers are a taller variety so definitely bring a stepladder for the best views and photography. Here is a link to the field map for this year:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fenton Friday: Help! Potato Plants Suffering

Potato Plant with BIG Problem
 I cannot figure out what is wrong with some of my potato plants. They have some brown speckling on most of the foliage and a few of the plants have just totally collapsed. I looked up several diseases and photos, but just does not match what I see. I was warned that potatoes are a pain to grow, so I'm not surprised. I'm thinking I may dig up the ones where the top foliage is totally gone just to see if there ARE any potatoes in there and if they are edible at this point. For the plants still with foliage on, I've given them more water and a layer of worm compost and plus more fertilizer. We'll see how that goes.

Potato Plant not as Bad Off
This week I picked more okra and ground cherries as well as a few tomatillos. The honeydew, watermelon, and cucumber vines are taking off though no visible fruit has set on any of them yet. My corn and pole beans are growing strong and tall. The tomato plants are all flowering, which I hope means I'll get some actual tomatoes in time for our annual Washington Gardener Magazine Tomato Taste in late August.

 In other Fenton Community Garden plot news, I have organized a weekly happy hour to gather, get to know each other, and discuss garden matters. Our first one will be this Monday night from 7-8pm. I hope it is well attended.

Garden Blogger Bloom Day BLING

 This Garden Blogger Bloom Day brings a bit of *BLING* to my garden in the form of Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) aka Fameflower of Jewels of Ophir.

The basal foliage is a bright, lime-green and is thick, almost succulent-like. The blooms are tiny pink things heald aloft of spring-y, spindly spikes, rather like a Heuchera. The "gems" of this plant are the ruby beads (seedpods) on the flower sprays.

I have it in a large container and part shade and it is doing very well -- doubling in size and blooming its head off just a few weeks after planting it. It is fairly drought-tolerant, which is good for summer here.

Whole Plant
 I got three baby plants from Doug R., a garden club friend who loves in Rockville, MD. Don't you love pass-a-long plants? It is an annual here and self-sows readily I hear, so we'll see if I have some to share next year.

PS If you are reading this post at the original posting on Washington Gardener Magazine's blog (, you can click on the photos and view them at full size.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Video Wednesday: Charlie Koiner the Urban Farmer

Charlie Koiner and his urban farm have gotten a lot of great press coverage lately. Mostly, they focus on his age or the urban setting, but I know what Charlie really likes to talk about: What is growing well right now in his garden. His figs, blackberries, sweet peppers, and tomatoes are all doing wonderfully -- putting my own garden plot three blocks south of his place to utter shame. One day, I'll have vegetables like Charlie's, one day...

Friday, July 08, 2011

Fenton Friday: First Tomato!

Whoo-hoo! Picked my first tomato from my plot at the Fenton Community Garden yesterday. It is a red cherry tomato. The funny thing is the plant it is growing on was labeled "Plum Yellow" and as you see, it is neither a plum nor yellow. It was a free plant I was going to discard actually as I had no interest in cooking with yellow plum tomatoes, but I had the plot space to experiment so thought I'd give it a whirl. Glad I did. Just goes to show you, never believe the label!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Weekend Storm Uproots Tree in Bartholdi Park

Jujube tree and bench
This past Sunday was a hot, sultry typical DC day. A friend and I waited on the U.S. Capitol lawn with several thousand others for a rehearsal performance of the Capitol Fourth concert. All of a sudden the sky turned black and the winds started to whip up. The concert organizers and the police got the crowd up and moving towards the House office building's garage across the street (next door to the U.S. Botanic Garden). I was one of those dragging my feet and griping about "losing our place," but as we reached the safety of the garage and the storm hit just seconds later, I saw that the authorities had indeed made the right decision. We were inside for an hour as the rains and winds pummeled the garage doors. The occasional sprays and gusts that breached the space around the metal doors gave us some indication of the storm's strength.

When we emerged from the garage, we all saw that the storm was far worse than predicted and we were grateful that we had been inside. Large tree limbs lay strewn about on the Capitol lawn where we had been sitting. Barricades, street signs, and even port-a-potties were toppled over or displaced. According to the U.S. Botanic Garden staff, the damage was even more extensive to one of the prize plants in their collection:

"The Chinese jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) that towered over Bartholdi Park was uprooted in the July 3 thunderstorm that struck Capitol Hill. While the tree itself was lost, its germplasm, or genetic material, lives on in clones that have been grown by the U.S. Botanic Garden staff. One of its genetically identical descendents will be chosen to replace the beloved tree. The Chinese jujube is thought to be part of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s founding collection.

Jujube Down
"As a museum with living collections, the U.S. Botanic Garden has collected germplasm from its most important plants to guard against irretrievable loss. Using a plant’s germplasm, horticulturists can grow a genetically identical plant.

“Each fall, people came to collect the fallen jujube fruit for use in traditional Chinese dishes,” said U.S. Botanic Garden Executive Director Holly Shimizu. “It will be at least 15 years before its replacement has a significant fruit set.”

"The 250 live plants brought back by Lt. Charles Wilkes from the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) formed the core of the founding plant collection of the U.S. Botanic Garden. He also brought back more than 10,000 herbarium specimens that later became the founding collection of the U.S. National Herbarium, a remarkable feat given the technology of the times. Wilkes was instrumental in the effort to reestablish a botanic garden on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, which has remained in continuous operation since 1850.

"The Chinese jujube is one of the four plants (or their progeny) still in the care of the U.S. Botanic Garden thought to have survived from this founding collection. Other Expedition plants on display in the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory include: the vessel fern (Angiopteris evecta) in the Jungle; the ferocious blue cycad (Encephalartos horridus) in the World Deserts; and the female sago palm (Cycas circinalis) in the Garden Court."

Photos provided by the U.S. Botanic Garden staff.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Video Wednesday: Container Gardening Tips from the US Botanic Garden

If you have ever been to the U S Botanic Garden on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in the summer, you have seen their wonderful container plantings -- big, bold, and healthy in the hot sun. In this video, USBG gardeners, Margaret Atwell and Beth Ahern, share some of their container gardening tips.

A few tips I learned from them that are not in the video footage:
~ Margaret likes to use 6 different plants per container.
~ They use their own soil mix -- basically a light potting mix.
~ After potting up, they sprinkle in Osmocote slow release fertilizer.
~ They do not use any rocks, gravel, or other fillers in the bottom of their pots for drainage.

BTW, if you are reading this post anywhere else on the Web aside from the Washington Gardener Magazine blog, you likely won't be able to see the actual video. To watch it, go directly to

Monday, July 04, 2011

Favorite Pollinator-Attracting Plants

For our June 2010 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we asked you to tell us your favorite pollinator-attracting plants.
Congratulations to our winners chosen at random:
  • Annie Shaw of Greenbelt MD
  • Madeline Caliendo of WDC
  • Melissa Merideth of Bethesda, MD
  • Katie Rapp of Gaithersburg MD
  • Wendy Bruno of Silver Spring, MD
They each receive a pair of passes passes to the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit (each set has two passes and is a $12 value). Running daily through mid-September, from 10:00AM to 4:00PM, Brookside Gar¬dens South Conservatory will feature live butterflies. Come witness the butterfly life cycle as tiny eggs hatch into crawling, chewing caterpillars, which then encase them¬selves in jewel-like chrysalides and emerge as sipping, flying adult butterflies. Learn about the best annual and tropical plants, and hardy shrubs that are used as nectar sources to attract butterflies to your own garden.

So what did you tell us your favorite pollinator-attracting plants were?

(Here they are in descending order of number of mentions.)

~ Coneflower (Echinacea)

~ Milkweed

~ Butterfly Weed

~ Black-eyed Susan

~ Monarda

~ Lace-cap hydrangeas

~ Joe-Pye weed

~ Bottle Gentian

~ Native asters

~ Chaste tree

~ Trumpet vine

~ Honeysuckle vines

What is your favorite pollinator-attracting plant? Did we miss it on our list?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Gardening Highlights

Colombian raised garden
This year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall has a few things I think will be of particular interest to local gardeners. The first is in the Colombia exhibit. Pictured here is an Azoteas or elevated garden. The gardens are tended by the village's women and are used to grow herbs, spices, vegetables, and greens both for the home kitchen and for bartering. It is made from an old canoe or from flat mats made of palm and bamboo. Why is it raised? Not to save their backs, which I'm sure is a side-benefit, but because of the free-range chickens who would make quick work of those young plants. It sure reminds mean awful lot of the Salad Table projects from our local extension service friends!

Also in the Colombian section of the festival is a coffee production and processing demonstration showing growing the plants through roasting the beans. I hear Juan Valdez himself is making cameo appearances! Me? I'm not a coffee drinker so I just quickly browsed the area and let the pushy crowds who were angling for free plants, beans, and tastes have at it (even though multiple signs CLEARLY stated all these items were for display purposes only).

In the “Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Promoting World Peace and Friendship” exhibit there are demonstrations of organic gardening techniques with participants from Jamaica.
(Insert doobie jokes here.) The area is small, though I think they have packed a lot of information in.

Guatelaman bottle wall
 Also, a non-profit group called “Trees, Water and People” teaches visitors the value of being green and preserving what is around them. The most fascinating part to me was the Guatelaman "bottle schools" -- classrooms made from  the heaps of trash one Peace Corp volunteer found in the surrounding areas. The structures are plastic water bottles stuffed with trash and then put inside chicken-wire structures. These are proven to be earthquake-proof and the applications are mind-blowing. I mean just think of what could be built and the amount of trash kept out of landfills!

For the non-gardeners (and if you are one, are you really reading this far into this blog pot?), there is also plenty to see and experience. Most popular was the salute to R&B music. I saw some fabulous local DC hand-dancing demonstrations and the Funk Brothers performing live with guest artists. The festival runs through next weekend with a mid-week break. See the schedule and particulars here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Fenton Friday: Is Fertilizing Cheating?

HIghtop the Flamingo
This week I added a flamingo I've named "Hightop" to look over my plot. He has a bit of a fade going on, you see. I added him to the growing flock at the Fenton Community Garden that started when I returned Beth Py-Lieberman's borrowed bird and placed it in the fencing over-looking her plot. In the last few weeks, many more flamingos have appeared in various other spots. I have a bag of legless birds that I may offer to other plot owners who want to join the flock and are crafty with a wire hanger.

This week I planted some garlic and another basil. Everything is coming along nicely. The tomatoes are recovering from their heat/transplant stress and are putting on flowers and new foliage. The biggest change I noticed a few days ago was that my Honeydew Melon had jumped in size from 6 inches long one day to several feet the next. You go, Honeydew!

Honeydew Melon

Looking around, many other plots are well "ahead" of mine with fuller, nicer-looking plantings. It finally occured to me, "Hey, they are fertilizing!" Damn them. I hate fertilizing, it just feel like cheating to me; like taking steroids or paying certain star players to fake an injury and stay home. I think my objection comes from the way fertilizer is marketed as plant "food" when really it is more akin to giving them vitamins and minerals. It just feels "dirty" to use this outside boost. I know it is not rational, but there it is. So I psyched myself up yesterday with a pep talk about how crappy the soil really is at the garden plot and I pulled out some sample fertilizers I'd been given to trial. I fertilized my tomatoes with Organic Dynamite "for bigger, jucier tomatoes" and then "fed" the rest of the plants with a wee bit of Liquid Fence's Speedy Grow Organic Plant Booster. Then, cause I was on such a roll, at my home garden I sprinkled all my containers and beds with Terracycle All Purpose natural plant food with worm castings.

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